September 11, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Baldwin attacked over sexual orientation in Senate race
Tammy Baldwin, LGBT caucus, Democratic National Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

A rival campaign staffer emailed a link of Rep. Tammy Baldwin dancing at a Madison, Wisc., Pride event to media outlets. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) encountered what her supporters say was a “gay-baiting” attack from a senior political adviser to former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, her Republican opponent in her race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

On Sept. 5, one day before Baldwin spoke before the Democratic National Convention on the theme of “heartland values,” Thompson campaign staffer Brian Nemoir circulated a video through email and Twitter showing Baldwin dancing at a gay Pride festival.

“Clearly, there’s no one better positioned to talk ‘heartland values’ than Tammy,” Nemoir said in an email to Wisconsin news media outlets.

The email, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Blade, contains a link to a YouTube video showing Baldwin waiving her arms while dancing on a stage with the popular Wisconsin rock band VO5. Some of the band members were dressed in Wonder Woman costumes as the band played the theme song for the Wonder Woman TV series.

The event took place in August 2010 on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, according to a YouTube caption.

“Tammy was hours away from speaking to the Democratic National Convention about heartland values, about the Wisconsin she knows,” said Denis Dison, communications director for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group that is raising money for Baldwin’s Senate campaign.

“So in advance of this he sends out a video of her celebrating LGBT Pride and sarcastically says, yeah, she’s the one who should be talking about heartland values,” Dison said. “The unspoken point there being it is somehow immoral to be LGBT or to be celebrating LGBT Pride.”

A spokesperson for the Thompson campaign told the Wisconsin State Journal that Nemoir was acting as an individual and not on behalf of the campaign when he sent out his email and link to the video.

John Kraus, a spokesperson for Baldwin’s campaign, told the Blade in an email that the campaign would have no comment on the Nemoir email and video link.

A copy of Nemoir’s email obtained by the Blade shows that it was sent to news media outlets and others on a Thompson for Senate email account.

In the Sept. 5 email, Nemoir states, “Yesterday, Madison-Liberal Tammy Baldwin cited ‘heartland values’ as the topic for her primetime speech to the DNC tomorrow night. Clearly, there’s no one better positioned to talk ‘heartland values’ than Tammy.”

Under the link to the YouTube video of Baldwin’s appearance at the Pride festival, Nemoir added one additional sentence: “A primer of her values – note event, and enjoy.”

He listed his title on the email as “Senior Advisor/Communications” for the Thompson campaign.

Baldwin won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998 as the first out gay person ever to be elected to Congress. She is giving up her House seat this year to run for the Senate. If elected, she would become the first openly gay person to become a U.S. senator.

Dison of the Victory Fund said that although Thompson is seeking to portray himself as a moderate on certain issues, his record as governor shows he opposes nearly all LGBT rights initiatives.

Thompson has said he supports a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and supports leaving in place the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states that have legalized same-sex nuptials. Thompson also opposed repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay and lesbian service members from serving openly.

In her speech before the Democratic convention on Sept. 6, Baldwin said Tommy Thompson; Wisconsin’s conservative GOP Gov. Scott Walker; and Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, who is Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, don’t reflect the views of most Wisconsin residents.

“I’m here to tell you they don’t speak for all of Wisconsin,” she said. “I want you to hear about the Wisconsin I know: the place where my grandparents raised me, the place where generations of families have worked hard to get ahead,” she said.

“The Wisconsin I know believes that with each passing year and each generation, our country must become more equal, not less,” she said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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